J.K. Rowling held up Donald Trump as an example of the importance of freedom of expression in her remarks Monday night at the PEN America Literary Gala, where she received the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award.
Says J.K. Rowling:
Intolerance of alternative viewpoints is spreading to places that make me, a moderate and a liberal, most uncomfortable. Only last year, we saw an online petition to ban Donald Trump from entry to the U.K. It garnered half a million signatures.
Just a moment.
I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine. Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination. If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral ground on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the fight for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes. If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on them grounds that they have offended you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification.
Austin prides itself on being a fun place for travelers to visit, but suddenly, with Uber and Lyft bailing in a political dispute, it’s not such a great party town anymore.
Austin has gone back in time 20 years, to an era where the taxi monopoly and the Hertz cartel had a total chokehold on visitors.
“Austin’s trying to be Oh yeah we’re so cool by rejecting ridesharing,” she says, “but it’s just showing how backwards we are. I probably should have just walked.”
Meanwhile, ten thousand drivers are out of a job—or at least a second job. The city’s huge phalanx of former ride-sharing drivers finds itself scrambling for work. The city responded by setting up a useless hotline and a “job fair” that consisted of little more than telling people how to apply for expensive chauffeur’s licenses and cab medallions. Most people can’t afford those, so instead drivers are offering their services on hastily assembled underground Facebook ride-sharing communities, marketing themselves in the same way a freelance handyman or pool-repair guy would. And desperate riders are responding.
Other than the occasional savvy low-scale entrepreneur and sharky car-rental and cab companies, no one appears to be benefitting from this insane transit apocalypse. Though the city frightened voters with terrifying depictions of a plague of Uber-rape, it’s now come out that people with sexual assault convictions, and even drunk-driving arrests, are actually allowed to drive cabs in Austin, few questions asked. “If you have ever been convicted of theft at any point, you could never get a chauffeur’s permit,” a city council member told a local news station. “That just seems like too much.”
Also, the city allows cab drivers to smoke in their cars.
The market creates. The politician destroys. The world moves on albeit…much more slowly.
“The inescapable conclusion, after reading the report, is the G.E. crops are pretty much just crops. They are not the panacea that some proponents claim, nor the dreaded monsters that others claim.” — Wayne Parrott a professor of crop and soil sciences at the University of Georgia.
The report looks at the impacts GE crops have had since the 1980s. Its findings include:
Generally positive economic outcomes for farmers, but no indication GE crops changed the rate of increase in yields;
Decreased crop losses, insecticide use and greater insect biodiversity for insect-resistant Bt crops, but also instances of insects evolving resistance;
No decrease in plant biodiversity for herbicide tolerant crops, but a major problem with herbicide-resistant weeds due to heavy glyphosate use;
No evidence that foods from GE crops are less safe to eat than conventional food.
Looking to the future of GE crops, the report notes that new genetic technologies are blurring the line between conventional and GE crops, and that the U.S. regulatory system needs to assess crop varieties based on their individual characteristics, not the way they are produced.
In a major vindication for Edward Snowden — and a blow for the national security policy pursued by Republicans and Democrats alike — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Thursday that the National Security Agency’s metadata collection program is unlawful. This is the most serious blow to date for the legacy of the USA Patriot Act and the surveillance overreach that followed 9/11.
The central question depended on the meaning of the word “relevant”: Was the government’s collection relevant to an investigation when it collects all the metadata for any phone call made to or from anywhere in the U.S.?
The court said no. That was the right decision — not so much because it protects privacy, as because it broke the bad precedent of secret law created by the NSA and endorsed by the secret national security court known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Phil Lempert, a Santa Monica-based analyst of consumer behavior and marketing trends, figures consumers haven’t seen the last of major retailers shuttering. Just last week, Sport Chalet announced the closure of all 47 of its stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. That chain is based in La Cañada Flintridge.
“With the minimum wage going up to $15 an hour and more people turning to online shopping, more stores are going to close,” Lempert said. “It’s fine to say that everyone should have a living wage. But the money has to come from somewhere.”
Lempert said a growing number of retail outlets have fallen victim to “showrooming,” where customers will walk into a store, try on the shirt or jacket they like and then order it online at a significant discount.
“These stores have to look at not at how they will compete with other brick-and-mortar stores, but how they will compete with Amazon,” he said. “It’s become a holistic environment where people can buy things on their mobile phones and then have the products delivered by the time they get home.”
I have watched the suicide of a nation; and I know now how it happens. Venezuela is slowly, and very publically, dying; an act that has spanned more than fifteen years. To watch a country kill itself is not something that happens often. In ignorance, one presumes it would be fast and brutal and striking – like the Rwandan genocide or Vesuvius covering Pompeii. You expect to see bodies of mothers clutching protectively their young; carbonized by the force or preserved on the glossy side of pictures. But those aren’t the occasions that promote national suicide. After those events countries recover – people recover. They rebuild, they reconcile. They forgive.
No, national suicide is a much longer process – not product of any one moment. But instead one bad idea, upon another, upon another and another and another and another and the wheels that move the country began to grind slower and slower; rust covering their once shiny facades. Revolution – cold and angry. Hate, as a political strategy. Law, used to divide and conquer. Regulation used to punish. Elections used to cement dictatorship. Corruption bleeding out the lifeblood in drips, filling the buckets of a successive line of bureaucrats before they are destroyed, only to be replaced time and again. This is what is remarkable for me about Venezuela.
Tonight there are no lights. Like the New York City of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the eyes of the country were plucked out to feed the starving beggars in abandoned occupied buildings which were once luxury apartments. They blame the weather – the government does – like the tribal shamans of old who made sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of an intervention. There is no food either; they tell the people to hold on, to raise chickens on the terraces of their once-glamorous apartments. There is no water – and they give lessons on state TV of how to wash with a cup of water. The money is worthless; people now pay with potatoes, if they can find them. Doctors operate using the light of their smart phones; when there is power enough to charge them. Without anesthesia, of course – or antibiotics, like the days before the advent of modern medicine. The phone service has been cut – soon the internet will go and an all-pervading darkness will fall over a feral land.
I have heard many young people describe why they support Bernie Sanders, and I empathize.
They believe they are being screwed by our government, and their futures are being robbed, and that is true.
They believe that cronyism and Washington picking winners and losers, is unjust, and that is true.
They believe that an outsider, an anti-establishment candidate, someone not beholden to special interests or to corrupt political parties, is our only hope, and that is true.
They believe what’s fundamentally missing is values and integrity, that politicians are immoral thieves and power-lusters, and that is true.
Regrettably, these youth are so uneducated and ignorant that they believe a socialist—the very essence of future-robbing, cronyism, corruption, immorality and power-lusting—is their salvation. It’s really the perfection of Progressive education we are witnessing: for 50 years our children have been indoctrinated instead of educated.
This slow journey by the Left is how all “cultural revolutions”—and destruction and war, and death camps, arise from formerly civilized societies. But that’s superficial. Leftist propaganda is ineffective, so blatantly vacuous and stupid, that the only way it works is that our culture has already instilled the moral code of altruism into our youth. Conservatives and their religious values, included.
Everyone (almost) is pro-altruism and no one (almost) dares to question it. Declare you are against selfishness and for the needy, and you get a blank check to rewrite history and facts, defy logic, blame scapegoats, and commit the worst atrocities in the name of “the oppressed.”
Inaction can fracture alliances. Inaction can empower dictators and provoke terrorists and enflame regional conflicts. Inaction can slaughter innocent people and create millions of refugees. We have the horrific proof in Syria, where Barack Obama’s infamous “red line” has been painted over in blood.
….Social psychology documented the “bystander apathy effect” in the 1960s, a phenomenon in which the more people who witness a crisis together, the less likely any one of them is to help. Studies showed that while 70 percent of people alone will help a stranger in distress, the number drops to 40 percent when other people are in the room. Inaction is not only deadly, it’s contagious, and it applies to nations as well as to individuals.
The solution to this sort of paralysis on a nation-state level is to have strong global institutions and treaties that are binding and clear. For example, an agreement between countries to guarantee mutual defense or an organization that is bound to intervene to stop a genocide. In theory, contractual commitments and shared moral obligations will override the bystander effect. In practice, the fear of taking action is so strong that the leaders of the free world find excuse after excuse to ignore their commitments and their values.
These excuses range from feigned ignorance to legalistic pedantry to rhetorically reducing the national and international interests that must be protected. Hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Rwanda? We didn’t know. The Budapest Memorandum guarantees Ukrainian territorial integrity? Check the fine print, we’re technically not bound to defend them. Russian jets are crossing into Turkish territory? The North Atlantic Treaty Organization begs member nation Turkey not to invoke the mutual defense clause. Iraq and Syria are exploding into civil war? It’s a Middle Eastern problem. The civil wars are churning out terrorist groups and refugees reaching the West? It’s a European problem. Islamic State sympathizers killed 14 people in San Bernardino, the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11? Our anti-IS strategy is the right one.
Obama and his fellow neo-isolationists are well aware that few are condemned and fewer are convicted of having the power to prevent a tragedy but refusing to do so, while a single death resulting from intervention will be denounced. A quarter-million deaths, a dozen terror attacks, a million refugees, these are politically acceptable consequences of inaction, but a single casualty from action, even attempting to prevent those horrors, is considered politically unacceptable.
Cruz is a Christian who takes his religion (semi) seriously. And I certainly understand why people of reason distrust a politician who believes there is “a guy in the sky” to whom we owe faith and obedience. All manner of irrational and life-throttling ideas can follow (andhavefollowed) from that fantasy.
But Ted Cruz is not a theocrat. In the realm of politics, he recognizes that the U.S. Constitution takes precedence over his religion. As he puts it:
My faith is an integral part of who I am. I’m a Christian, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. I’m not going to hide that and treat it like something you can’t admit publicly. . . .
But I also think that those in politics have an obligation not to wear their faith on their sleeve. There have been far too many politicians who run around behaving like they’re holier than thou. My attitude as a voter, when some politician stands up and says “I’m running because God told me to run” [a veiled reference to Marco Rubio], my reaction is “Great, when God tells me to vote for you we’ll be on the same page.”
I’m not asking for your vote because of my personal faith. . . . I’m asking you to vote for me because I’ve spent a lifetime fighting to defend the Constitution and Bill of Rights, fighting to defend the American free enterprise system. And we need a leader who will stand up every day and protect the rights of everyone, whether they’re Christians or Jews or Muslims or anyone else. The Bill of Rights protects all Americans. It protects atheists. That’s the beauty of the Bill of Rights. . . . The Constitution and the Bill of Rights [embody] a unifying principle that can bring us together across faiths, across races, across ethnicities—and we need to come together behind the unifying principles that built America.
Cruz is far from flawless. But he is by far the best viable candidate running for president today.
We don’t get to dream up a flawless candidate and make him real. We have to choose among the actual alternatives, or enter a protest vote, or choose not to vote. Those are our only alternatives.
Given the foregoing facts, Cruz is the clear-cut best choice for America.
Cummins still gets Rand wrong on a number of points, and I think she does so because she isn’t really interested in getting her right. This is a common problem when people write about those whom they regard as ideological enemies. They come at the enemy’s texts with a preconceived idea of what she thinks, why she thinks it, and how her view can be refuted; and then they look for passages that cohere with this, rather than approaching the texts with the question “What does this person think and why?” Cummins has Rand pigeon-holed as a thinker of a certain sort, who occupies a certain foolish position in a familiar debate about egoism and altruism, and she shows no interest in testing that hypothesis, or (better) in putting the hypothesis aside temporarily to see what emerges from a straightforward reading of the texts. This is a mistake we all have to work hard not to fall into when addressing authors whose views we regard as opposite to our own.
Such pieces are vehicles through which those who find Rand distasteful can commiserate with one another and preen over their own erudition, without engaging people who think differently or contributing to any productive inquiry. Sure, there’s some combing through a few of Rand’s articles to find passages to gripe about, and there may even occasionally be decent arguments about stray points, but there isn’t any real intellectual engagement—no attempt to identify and evaluate the theses, arguments, and themes that so many readers find enlightening and inspiring in Rand’s works. The frequency of such gripes, especially in the last several years, attests to the enduring place Rand has earned in American thought. It is high time that those who find her ideas uncongenial accept this fact and begin treating her accordingly.